What books should a child read before they leave Primary School?

It pretty much goes with saying that Reading is an essential life-skill.

As teachers it is always a focus and something that we endeavour to ensure that all children have access to good quality texts and we encourage them to read regularly.

The New Curriculum states:

The overarching aim for English in the national curriculum is to promote high standards of literacy by equipping pupils with a strong command of the written and spoken word, and to develop their love of literature through widespread reading for enjoyment. The national curriculum for English aims to ensure that all pupils:

  • Read easily, fluently and with good understanding
  • Develop the habit of reading widely and often, for both pleasure and information
  • Acquire a wide vocabulary, an understanding of grammar and knowledge of linguistic conventions for reading, writing and spoken language
  • Appreciate our rich and varied literary heritage
  • Write clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting their language and style in and for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences
  • Use discussion in order to learn; they should be able to elaborate and explain clearly their understanding and ideas
  • Are competent in the arts of speaking and listening, making formal presentations, demonstrating to others and participating in debate.

And to be fair much of that sounds quite reasonable.

There are several debates I really don’t want to start in this post and will try to avoid them:

  1. What is ‘good’ reading?
  2. How should reading be taught?
  3. Who is more responsible for reading, Home or School?
  4. How much should children read? and all age related themes.
  5. Individual Reading vs Guided Reading vs Shared Reading
  6. Fiction, Non-Fiction or Poetry? Which is most valuable?

There are more, but as I am not discussing those, let’s move on!

So with all the controversial stuff aside; I would like this blog post to be a point of discussion.

What books do you think a Primary School child should have read or have been read

or shared before they leave Primary School?

I have set up a Google Form to collect this information, which you can find at the end of this post.

Please add as many books to the list as you like.

Just one, a collection, your personal favourites. Any books from any time, modern or classic, it doesn’t matter.


About 7 or 8 years ago, a colleague and I sat down and wrote a list (we kept it to Fiction) of some of the books we thought were must reads.

The list was split into 3 sections:

  1. Younger Readers/Simple Picture Books
  2. Books for all
  3. Books for Older/Stronger Readers

This was all quite loosely sorted, lots of my other school colleagues argued, it didn’t matter – the discussion was useful! It was never designed to be a complete list, nor was it that because a book wasn’t on the list, I didn’t a) like it or b) think a child should read it.

This was suggested to me, at one point and I explained that it was impossible to write a list of every book ever written that a child could/should/must read.

They calmed down when I said they didn’t HAVE to agree with me.

It wasn't quite this bad! www.visualphotos.com

It wasn’t quite this bad!

As teacher’s often do I proceeded to spend a small fortune at car boot sales, second hand book shops and on eBay, buying the books on my list, in order to create a Class Library of recommended reads. I know I shouldn’t, let’s not go there, but I have a problem with books – they just sort of find their way (legally) home with me! I have too many, if that’s possible, to fit in my study and they have filled sections of my loft too!

Anyway, the children (Y6) devoured them!

Some had never seen ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ (Can you believe it!?), some actually cried when I read them ‘Dogger’ for the first time. When I showed them Rik Mayall’s portrayal of George’s Marvellous Medicine from Jackanory (You have to love YouTube!), they were transfixed by a genius StoryTeller at work.


I will bravely share that list from 2006 here.

Do you think it’s a fair list? Is there anything obviously missing? Anything you consider undeserving?

Please use the Comment Section to discuss.

Title Author
Dogger Shirley Hughes
Elmer Tony Ross
Each Peach, Pear, Plum Allan Ahlberg
A Gift from Winklesea Helen Cresswell
Flat Stanley Jeff Brown
George Speaks Dick King-Smith
The “Happy Family” series Allan Ahlberg
Owl Babies Martin Waddell
Not Now Bernard David McKee
3 Little Wolves & the Big Bad Pig Helen Oxenbury
The Little Mole Who Knew It Was None Of His Business Werner Holzwarth
Green Eggs and Ham Dr. Seuss
The Trouble with… Babette Cole
The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark Jill Tomlinson
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Eric Carle
Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf Catherine Storr
Stanley Bagshaw Bob Wilson
The Mousehole Cat Antonia Barber
Handa’s Surprise Eileen Brown
The Patchwork Quilt Valerie Flournoy
Fungus the Bogeyman Raymond Briggs
Little Wolf’s Book of Badness Ian Whybrow
George’s Marvellous Medicine Roald Dahl
The Giraffe, the Pelly, and me Roald Dahl
The Piemakers Helen Cresswell
Follow That Bus Pat Hutchins
Diary of a Killer Cat Anne Fine
Grandpa Chatterji Jamila Gavin
The Worst Witch Jill Murphy
Bill’s New Frock Anne Fine
The Iron Man Ted Hughes
The Magic Finger Roald Dahl
The Owl Tree Jenny Nimmo
Krindlekrax Phillip Ridley
The Fib and Other Stories George Layton
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Other Stories Roald Dahl
The Terbulent Term of Tyke Tiler Gene Kemp
Whizziwig Malorie Blackman
The 2000lb Goldfish Betsy Byers
The Fox Busters Dick King-Smith
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Roald Dahl
Matilda Roald Dahl
War Boy Michael Rosen
How the Whale Became & Other Stories Ted Hughes
The Happy Prince Jane Ray
The Guard Dog Dick King-Smith
The Clothes Horse & Other Stories Allan Ahlberg
Boy & Going Solo Roald Dahl
Charlotte’s Web E.B. White
The Midnight Fox Betsy Byers
1001 Arabian Nights Geraldine McCaughrean
Stig of the Dump Clive King
The Butterfly Lion Michael Morpurgo
Kensuke’s Kingdom Michael Morpurgo
Treasure Island Adapted by Chris Mould
101 Dalmations Dodie Smith
5 Children and It E. Nesbit
Moondial Helen Cresswell
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe C.S. Lewis
The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame
Carrie’s War Nina Bawden

In the meantime, please make a contribution or two to the Recommended Booklist on the Google form.

I will publish the list once there are enough to share.

Many thanks.

 UPDATE: (07-08-14)

After a discussion with Pie Corbett and Brian Moses on Twitter this afternoon I was directed to this resource:

Talk4Writing – Literature Spine

Collated by Pie Corbett, it is a scaled sequence of possible reading by Year Group.

A useful reference piece I thought.

Posted on 06/08/2014, in T&L and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom – Louis Sachar

    Shadow – Michael Morpurgo


  2. Year 5 suggestions

    Shadow – Michael Morpurgo

    There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom – Louis Sachar


    • If you read the next post on this subject you can read the ‘crowd sourced’ list.
      Louis Sachar’s There’s a boy in the girls bathroom, is on it. There are a few Morpurgo, although I’m not sure Shadow is one of them.


  1. Pingback: What books should a child read before they leave primary school? The Results! | Wats-Education - from the inside looking out.

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